The intoxicating mystery of the East was a fascination first revived by avante garde artists in late nineteenth century Europe. Inevitably their influence spread to the European cultural elite, eventually trickling down to the bourgeoisie. By this point exoticism had become a full-blown mania. The artists that began a subtle flirtation with concepts of the exotic in their work eventually saw these same concepts show up in department store merchandise with textile prints and imports from China, India, Turkey, Iran and the latest market, Japan. However, what the commercial level of exoticism lacked was obvious when looking at examples of art from that period. While the commercial sector merely sought to superficially imitate the exotic through domestic manufactures and imports, ceramic artists were aspiring to something far beyond that. They were channeling what they perceived as the underlying principles of traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic pottery. This phenomenon was beyond mere revivalism. These artists were embracing ancient techniques and traditions to push the limits of convention, creating entirely new and original works of art. Concepts of the exotic were not just restricted to place, but also enveloped time. The European medieval and classical periods were also sources of inspiration for their respective qualities; the medieval period had the appeal of rustic honesty while the classical invoked the distant ideal of perfection.
Interest in this subject has not waned over the past century. Quite the opposite is true for as cultures all over the world become more and more accessible to each another we are evermore confronted with something new, mysterious, and exciting. We will always be fascinated with the strange, the beautiful, and the surreal. This exhibition is about revisiting a history of fascination and reminding us what we love about living in a world that offers so much to explore.
The Jason Jacques Gallery invites you to come see the exhibition open October 8-November 12. The accompanying book, released this past September at the Paris Biennale, contains over 166 full-page photographs and essays from current leading scholars in the decorative arts.